One year ago, I was sitting in a small corporate apartment in Cupertino, California, scanning Craigslist for a home in San Francisco. My husband had been here for two months already, having landed his dream job. The cats were here and getting settled, enjoying a little more sunlight than what was typical for Chicago this time of the year. Things were changing much more quickly than we had intended, that’s for sure.
But all that being said, I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. It was that “pee in your pants kind of excited” – know what I mean?! And one year later, I know for sure it was the best decision ever.
I think I knew that the second he accepted his job. I think I knew the year before that we could live in California. And ironically enough, after reading back through a past trip to wine country, I laughed at the fact that I’d suggested it then. Clearly, this was all meant to be.
And don’t get me wrong – I love North Carolina and I love Chicago. But this is home now. Sure, there have been adjustments made along the way. We’re outdoors more, we commute longer, we spend more money on wine, and we never ever worry about snow. We also miss many folks who are now even farther away, including our family. We see them all less than we’d like, but we try to make up for it in phone calls and internet face time and email. It’s not the same, but it is a good effort, and we get by with it.
This pudding is similar in that respect. It is a somewhat last-minute adjustment. I’d planned on making a roasted banana pudding for dessert this past Valentines day, but as per usual Whole Foods seemed to only carry ultra unripened ‘naners. So instead of making lackluster ‘naner puddin’, I picked up some strawberries instead, since they seem to always be in season out here. Hopefully they’ll be coming to a market near you soon, too.
With a couple of necessary changes, the puddin’ turned out to be pretty awesome, maybe even better than what I’d planned, when it came down to it. It’s a good example of how not going off of what’s written on paper worked – how taking a chance paid off in the end. And now, it’s not the same as hopping off to California, but it’s still memorable nonetheless.
Basil Balsamic Strawberry Pudding
inspired by Cooking Light; serves 4
time commitment: 2 hours (1 hour is for chilling the pudding)
1.5 lbs fresh strawberries, cut into thin slices
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 c skim milk
1/3 c sugar, divided
1/4 c basil, whole
1 T arrowroot powder or cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/2 T butter
1 t vanilla extract
6 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
18 vanilla wafers, divided
pre-heat oven to 350.
Place strawberries on a sheet pan and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely.
Combine milk and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Add basil.
Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Gradually add hot milk mixture (removing basil beforehand) to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add half of the cooled strawberries, butter, and vanilla, stirring until butter melts. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture comes to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Fold half of whipped topping into pudding.
Spread 1/8 of the custard into the bottom of four single serving dishes or glasses. Top each with 2 vanilla wafers and distribute half of the remaining strawberries on top. Spoon the rest of the custard into the dishes over strawberries. Repeat procedure with 2 more wafers in each dish followed by the remaining strawberries. Distribute the remaining half of whipped topping evenly over the top of each. Crush remaining 2 wafers; sprinkle over top. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled.